I knew something was wrong as soon as we pulled up in front of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s house and parked at the curb. Normally our niece and nephew would fly out the front door and run over the grassy front lawn to greet us. This time it was their mom who stood there on the walkway with a concerned look on her face. She took my hand as she walked us inside. When we reached the kitchen, she asked us to sit down and said my older brother had called with bad news. We were living in Oregon at the time and had flown down to LA late the previous evening and had stayed at a nearby hotel. Long before cell phones, we wouldn’t have known what happened until then.
Strangely enough, I dreamt of him that previous night. Over breakfast I talked about the comforting feeling I always got whenever I saw him standing in the window that looked out onto our driveway. With a mug of coffee in one hand, he’d wave with the other, then a smile would appear…every single time I came home.
I tried my best to keep it together on the long cross-country flight “home” only to fall apart when we drove up our street and my childhood house came into view. I searched that window, but he wasn’t there. And he would never be there again.
At the wakes, I learned that my dad Stanley, known by everyone as Stash, was many things to many people. To some he was kind. To others he was generous. Still others talked about how fun and funny he was. The stories shared were sometimes touching and sometimes surprising.
From my journal: April 15, 1992 Hillsboro, Oregon
“The funeral was the toughest…the finality of everything. All of it strange, like watching a movie…I’m going to miss Dad…but he’ll always be with me.”
What I remember most about my dad is that what he couldn’t put into words, he could put into amazing creations. A talented craftsman, he built the house our family grew up in. Every wall, floor and shingle was put in place by his very hands. Saturday mornings, I always woke up to the buzzing and scraping sounds of the skill saw that he used in our cellar. Later in the day I’d go downstairs to see what he was working on. Coffee tables, chairs, shelves…it didn’t matter what it was, such care and attention to detail were found in everything he made.
He built the picnic table that we gathered at every summer for barbeques. He crafted a deck around our overground pool we swam in when school was out. He constructed a shed for our pet rabbits, a house for every dog we owned, as well as a garage for his truck. Not to mention all the structures, barns and properties he and my Uncle Donny turned out working as D&S Builders in our hometown.
My dad’s inventive skills also extended to the flower and vegetable gardens he tended to every spring, summer and fall. Everything from tomatoes to zucchinis to corn grew strong and hardy on his watch. Zinnias, petunias and irises flourished year after year. My parents came out to see me in Los Angeles one fall. The next summer when I went home to visit, my dad said he had something to show me out back. There he created a path through his flower patch. He called it his “California” walkway!
With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking of him a lot. I’ve been missing him a lot, too. I only had thirty years to know him, but I’m grateful I have the rest of my lifetime to remember and appreciate him.